Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt has been widely credited with helping to bring down the Senate background checks bill last month, thanks in part to his cozy relationship with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and his sway among Cruz’s colleagues.
Pratt is also a radical anti-government conspiracy theorist who routinely compares President Obama to King George III and entertains conspiracy theories about the president provoking a race war and setting the police on Christian conservatives.
In an interview with conspiracy theorist Pete Santilli earlier this month, Pratt went even further than usual, detailing what he sees as a plan by the president to turn the Department of Homeland Security into a private army “equally as powerful as the military” -- that is, if the president “can’t actually commandeer the military” first.
A lite version of this DHS conspiracy theory, which holds that the agency is hoarding ammunition in order to keep it away from gun owners, has inspired an actual bill in Congress.
Santilli: Now, Mr. Pratt, here’s my most important discussion that I’d like to have with you, and my most important concern just observing the Department of Homeland Security and the amount of ammunition and guns and the way they’re staffing up. Do you think that that DHS is a fighting force built by Barack Obama’s administration to potentially be used by the American people, even in opposition to a military that choose to be constitutional? Is that one of your greatest fears?
Pratt: During his ’08 campaign, the president had talked about setting up some kind of, what do you call it, a national security force, something of that sort that would be equally as powerful as the military. Well, that should have told us what he was up to. If he can’t actually commandeer the military, then he’ll bulk up the Department of Homeland Insecurity and he’ll have them buy a gazillion bullets. At the time they bought 100 million for this year, they already had 250 million, give or take, on hand. What is that all about? And these are anti-personnel rounds. These are not target practice rounds. They’re not semiwadcutters, they’re not even the military ball ammo, they’re anti-personnel.
Santilli: And that would be billions, not millions, right?
Pratt: It’s 100 million a year for the next ten years, well over a billion, which will then be five times, give or take, what they already have on hand. If nothing else, it would seem to be a strategy designed to drive up the price and lower the availability of ammunition in particular, firearms in general, but ammunition in particular.
Rep. Frank Lucas, Republican of Oklahoma and House sponsor of a bill that is feeding a right-wing conspiracy theory about ammunition purchases by the federal government, wondered Monday if the Obama administration is leading “a conspiracy to buy up all the bullets so they’re not available to us.”
In an interview with Steve Malzberg, Rep. Lucas claimed that bullets are being “rationed” and that his constituents “have been telling me for a year they cannot buy ammunition in the retail stores.” When Malzberg played a clip of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano refuting the conspiracy theory that the administration is buying up bullets to keep them from consumers, Rep. Lucas replied, “It’s hard to see in the mind of an Obama-appointed official. They tend to be a little different than the general public, they have a different perspective.”
“But this is the administration, remember, that’s super gun control, that really, really, really doesn’t trust people with firearms and obviously they don’t trust people with ammunition,” he continued. “Is this a conspiracy to buy up all the bullets so they’re not available to us? I don’t know.”
Rep. Lucas, along with Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, is sponsoring a bill that would cap the amount of ammunition non-Defense federal agencies are allowed to buy. The bill is a response to an Alex Jones-fueled right-wing conspiracy theory that even the NRA has debunked.
In remarks to the FreedomWorks Texas Summit on Friday, Senator Ted Cruz credited himself for blocking recent background checks legislation, mocked his Senate GOP colleagues and derided the families of Sandy Hook victims as “political props.” In response, People For the American Way president Michael Keegan released the following statement:
“Senator Cruz’s remarks make clear that he’s more interested in representing the Tea Party than ordinary Texas voters.
“In a single speech, Cruz managed to insult Newtown families, mock his Republican colleagues and take credit for blocking background checks backed by over 90% of Americans. His remarks prove that Tea Partiers in Congress will work to block any gun safety legislation, no matter what it is or how many Americans support it.
“Senator Cruz is working overtime to alienate senators on both sides of the aisle. He may be a darling of the Tea Party, but he’s a growing political liability for the GOP.”
Watch Cruz’s speech:
Ted Cruz ridicules and criticizes his GOP Senate colleagues
Ted Cruz says Obama is using Newtown families as 'political props'
Ted Cruz takes credit for blocking background check legislation
PFAW’s recent Right Wing Watch in Focus report on opposition to more effective regulation of guns noted that promoting conspiracy theories is a primary strategy used by extremists to block common sense policies. New evidence comes in the form of a recent email from Sen. Rand Paul raising money for the National Association for Gun Rights, a group that is so far out there it thinks the National Rifle Association has gone soft.
Rand Paul’s letter uses inflammatory rhetoric to push the conspiracy theory that registration of guns and requiring background checks for gun purposes – which is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners – is just a prelude to “confiscation” by the “gun-grabbers.”
And make no mistake, the gun-grabbers’ TRUE motives behind gun registration is always the same -- outright gun CONFISCATION, and to do that they must first register every gun and gun owner.
Another letter Paul signed for the group argues that President Obama is working to empower United Nations bureaucrats to confiscate Americans’ guns:
I don't know about you, but watching anti-American globalists plot against our Constitution makes me sick.
PFAW’s report on opposition to addressing gun violence notes that there are real consequences to the promotion of conspiracy theories by elected officials:
It is also true that the failure to challenge extremist and dishonest rhetoric can lead to damaging consequences for our common public life. The promotion of false conspiracy theories, the claims by public figures that their political opponents are out to destroy freedom and America itself, and the false equation of sensible, broadly supported laws with the elimination of the rights of hunters and other gun owners, can foster a dangerous extremism, including threats of violence.
One of Rand Paul’s letters refers to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill restricting ownership of assault weapons as “the effective END of the Second Amendment in America.”
I can hardly even think about what a DISASTER for our country it would be should President Obama, Senator Feinstein and their anti-gun pals succeed in ramming this monstrosity down our throats.
An earlier alert from the National Association for Gun Rights was labeled: “Obama declares war.”
Why is Rand Paul raising money for these guys?
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – On Saturday, Rev. Dr. Welborn Preston, Pastor of the Temple of Life Worship Center, New Life Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, in Newport News, will speak on behalf of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action at a joint press conference calling for common-sense gun violence prevention measures. The press conference, featuring a number of community leaders, will take place at the Gaines Theater at Christopher Newport University on Saturday, March 23 at 9:30 a.m.
Rev. Preston released the following statement in advance of the event:
“Too many of our children – and especially African-American children – live in fear of gun violence. As community leaders, we have a moral obligation to make our communities safer and stronger for the next generation. That means fully funding schools, making sure our children have adequate nutrition and health care, and it also means ensuring that our streets are safe. And the plain truth is that we can’t keep our streets safe on our own. Our elected officials in Washington must act to ensure universal background checks for those purchasing firearms and to restrict assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We must tell our representatives in Washington that every Virginia child has the right to grow up free from gun violence – and that they must work to make that right a reality.”
People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action represents African-American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.
WASHINGTON – Today 42 elected officials from 20 states and Young Elected Officials Action, a program of People For the American Way representing the interests of elected officials age 35 and under, called on House and Senate leaders to work toward the passage of common-sense gun violence prevention reforms. In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the elected officials write that until Congress passes “meaningful gun violence prevention measures” such as criminal background checks for every gun sale, state and local elected officials are “limited” in what they can do to address the problem in their own communities.
“No child should fear going to school in the morning, no parent should fear a trip to the grocery store, and no teenagers should fear walking the streets of their own neighborhood,” the letter states.
Elected officials who have signed the letter include city councilmembers, state senators and representatives, a mayor, and Sunnyside Unified School District board member Daniel Hernandez – the former intern credited with saving Representative Gabby Giffords’ life.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, and Leader Pelosi:
We, state and local elected officials from 20 states and Young Elected Officials Action – a program of People For the American Way representing the interests of elected officials age 35 and under – write to express our deep concern about the gun violence devastating communities across the country and to urge you to take meaningful action to curb it. As mayors, and members of school boards, city and county councils, and state legislatures, we are charged with ensuring the safety and security of our communities. But until Congress takes action to implement meaningful gun violence prevention measures, we are limited in what we can do to reduce gun violence in our own communities.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence estimates that approximately 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence each year. Many others count the victims of such violence among their family and friends. This violence has a devastating effect on individual lives and on our communities as a whole. No child should fear going to school in the morning, no parent should fear a trip to the grocery store, and no teenagers should fear walking the streets of their own neighborhood. That fear, fed by a lawless market in deadly weapons, erodes our efforts to create strong schools, safe neighborhoods and healthy local economies.
That is why YEO Action and the undersigned are calling for common-sense reforms to make the country safer. These include: requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale; making illegal gun trafficking a federal crime; removing military-style assault weapons from our communities; and banning the use of high-capacity magazines that have no use but mass carnage. These basic changes would not end gun violence in our country, but they would help to curb the epidemic of violence that has devastated so many American lives.
Every person has the right to be safe in our schools, homes, and neighborhoods. Today we call upon you, leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, to adopt these common-sense and vitally important measures.
Danielle Adams, Soil/Water Conservation District Supervisor, Durham, NC
Ben Allen, School Board President, Santa Monica, CA
Mandela Barnes, State Representative, Milwaukee, WI
Alex Breland, School Council Member, Chicago, IL
Dwight Bullard, State Senator, Miami, FL
Joe Carn, City Council Member, College Park, GA
Adam Carranza, School Board Member, El Monte, CA
Leland Cheung, City Council Member, Cambridge, MA
Janet Chin, School Board Member, Rosemead, CA
Enbar Cohen, City Commissioner, Aventura, FL
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez, Azusa USD Board Clerk, Azusa, CA
Marcus C. Evans, Jr., State Representative, Chicago, IL
Wesley Farrow, Neighborhood Council Board Member, Inglewood, CA
Bill Ferguson, State Senator, Baltimore, MD
Carmelo Garcia, School Board Member, Hoboken, NJ
Angela Garretson, City Council Member, Hillside, NJ
Robert J. Gignac, Lowell School Committeeman, Lowell, MA
Andrew Gillum, City Commissioner, Tallahassee, FL
Mike Gipson, City Council Member, Carson, CA
Jennifer Gregerson, City Council Member, Mukilteo, WA
Mike Hays, City Council Member, Spring City, PA
Daniel Hernandez, School Board Member, Tucson, AZ
Dar'shun Kendrick, State Representative, Lithonia, GA
Kevin Killer, State Representative, Pine Ridge, SD
Roland Lemar, State Representative, New Haven, CT
Alex Lewy, City Commissioner, Hallandale Beach, FL
Josh Maxwell, Mayor, Downingtown, PA
Wendell Mosby, Community College Trustee, Chicago, IL
Quentin Phipps, City Treasurer, Middletown, CT
Kesha Ram, State Representative, Burlington, VT
Craig Rice, City Council Member, Rockville, MD
Jacque Robinson, City Council Member, Pasadena, CA
Jesus Rubalcava, School Governing Board Member/ State Association Officer, Gila Bend, AZ
Kristie Renee Sepulveda-Burchit, School District Board Trustee, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Andrew Smith, City Council Member, Middletown, OH
Brent Steeno, Alderman, Grandview, MO
Rashida Tlaib, State Representative, Detroit, MI
Michael Unis, Board of Education Member, Verona, NJ
Virgil Watkins, City Council Member, Macon, GA
Lea Webb, City Council Member, Binghamton, NY
Alan Williams, State Representative, Tallahassee, FL
Justen Wright, City Council Member, Wilmington, DE
People For the American Way
Gun Owners of America has been enjoying its moment in the media spotlight recently, placing spokespeople on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, drawing attention for its Capitol Hill lobbying efforts, and even being cited in official Senate Republican talking points about a filibustered judicial nominee.
Adding to the evidence this week was GOA’s legislative counsel Michael Hammond, who joined VCY America’s Jim Schneider on Crosstalk radio Wednesday in order to share his theories that universal background check legislation might well lead to government-led genocide; that gun control advocates “bear some responsibility” for the Sandy Hook shooting; and that liberals have become “paranoic” and “racist against people who hold traditional American values.”
Schneider kicked things off by reading an email he’d been cc’d on explaining how universal background checks would lead us down a slippery slope to “confiscation” and “tyrannization.” Hammond wholeheartedly agreed, adding that there is a “real danger” that those would in turn lead to “extermination” and “genocide” not unlike in Nazi Germany:
Schneider: Let’s talk about this universal background check. Someone was drafting a letter to the president and they copied me in on the email, and here’s what they said, and I’d like to get your reaction to it. They said that the consequence of a background check can be reduced to a simple formula: Examination (universal background checks) leads to registration (local, state and federal databases), which leads to investigation (bureaucratic decisions regarding fitness or need to bear arms), and that leads to confiscation, which leads to tyrannization (the oppression and genocide against a subgroup, whether by its ethnicity, religion, political views or status or against the entirety of a state citizen). So they use examination, goes to registration to investigation, confiscation, and tyrannization or…
Hammond: Which leads to extermination. And I was actively involved in rebuilding the Polish Solidarity Trade Union, which ultimately overthrew communism in the Eastern Bloc, and I can say that both when I talked to these people, they said, you know, ‘The Soviets have all these tanks stationed in our country and we have nothing.’ And let me say that 40 years before in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the Nazis, who the first thing they did when they came into power was ban firearms, they exterminated the Jews in Warsaw and they did so because the government was the only one who was armed. And, if you watch documentaries of that period, the people facing mass slaughter and saying, ‘We just, what do we do? We have no firearms.” And so ultimately, registration, confiscation, tyrannization has the real danger of leading to extermination.
Schneider: So you wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that progression that this writer was talking about.
Hammond: No. I think there’s a danger that you go in that direction. There’s certainly been governments in our lifetime that have engaged in genocide on a very significant scale. And I have been on the radio in a lot of them, in places like Holland, in places like Poland, in places like the old Soviet Union, and I say to these people, ‘If, in America, we ever reach the point in which you were during our lifetimes, we would like to think that we would be able to defend ourselves.’
Later, discussing the Sandy Hook school shooting, Hammond said that Connecticut gun control advocates “bear some responsibility for what happened in Newtown” because they prevented teachers from carrying guns:
Hammond: Connecticut, as you probably know, had among the most stiffest gun control in the world prior to the shooting at Newtown, and as a result of politicians like Chris Murphy and Sen. Blumenthal and the other little Democrat politicians in that state. And all the gun control they had didn’t stop Newtown. As a matter of fact, what it said to Adam Lanza is, ‘You can kill all these kids, you can get your fifteen minutes of fame, you don’t have to worry that we’re going to allow any principles, staff or teachers to shoot back at you.’ These people in some respects, I think, horrifically bear some responsibility for what happened in Newtown.
Finally, Hammond reminisced about going to school during the Vietnam War and seeing “fourteen year-old kids walking up and down the hall with semi-automatic rifles.”
“Exactly what has happened to our country that we have become so paranoic, that we have become so gun-hating, in cases of the liberal media, and that the liberal media has become so almost racist against people who hold traditional American values?” he asked.
Hammond: When I was a kid, and there are very few advantages in life to being very, very, very old, but one, it means you have a little perspective. When I was kid during the Vietnam War, in high school, fourteen to seventeen year-old kids ended up walking back and forth across the campus, across the playground, up and down the halls, up and down the sidewalks of my ghetto school – it wasn’t a rural or suburban school, it was a ghetto school – with M1 semi-automatic firearms, fully functional, except they didn’t have a firing pin but you couldn’t tell that to look at them. Fourteen year-old kids walking up and down the hall with semi-automatic rifles, no one, no one thought that we were going to shoot up the school.
I graduated in 1967. 1968 they passed the first big gun control law, the Gun Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 [sic]. Now look, we’ve gone 40 years and we’ve reached the point in which holding up a Pop-Tart is considered threatening. Exactly what has happened to our country that we have become so paranoic, that we have become so gun-hating, in cases of the liberal media, and that the liberal media has become so almost racist against people who hold traditional American values?
By Jamira Burley
Alumna, PFAW Foundation's Young People For Program
Eight years ago, in 2005, I was just a normal high school student. I faced my share of adversity, but nothing I thought I couldn't handle -- even after the repeat incarcerations of both my parents and all 10 of my older brothers. That is, until I received a phone call that changed not only the way I viewed the world, but also my place within it.
My 20-year-old brother Andre was shot and killed one month before his 21st birthday. His death devastated my family and still continues to hold a dark shadow over our lives today.
What continues to surprise and sadden me to this day is the fact that my brother isn't the first or the last. Why? Every single day in America, news stories flash snapshots of lives that once were. Years of a young person's life are funneled down to less than two paragraphs in the back pages of a newspaper. Burial plots are assigned and soon the names are forgotten in the media. Those lives are only remembered by the ones that loved them most and the heavy tombstone, bearing witness to the lives they once lived.
Stories like these are happening every single day in America, where young people are dying before they are even old enough to vote; where the price of leaving your home may mean death.
We lose more Americans to violence on our own city streets than on the battlegrounds of war. We have made kid soldiers out of our youth, criminals out of the disadvantaged, and funeral attendees out of us all.
Guns are becoming more accessible than textbooks and supermarkets. Yet we continue to serve them up to the unfit and unqualified, which is resulting in mass murders and mass shootings.
This begs the question: what can and must be done?
Young people, especially black men and boys, are being killed in our classrooms and city streets. The selling of fire arms to criminals is placing our family members, neighbors, classmates and coworkers at risk. In some states anyone can walk in to a gun show without an ID and purchase a firearm. That means a criminal or an unfit person could have access to a gun with 10 rounds or 100.
In addition to closing the private sale loophole, the following measures must be put in place if we want to stop one more person from falling victim to a bullet:
• Fix the gun check system in a way that will allow enforcement agencies to upload and share current and accurate information.
• Require ID and background checks for all gun purchases.
• Make gun trafficking a federal crime.
• Create common-sense laws that address what type of guns should be in the hands of average Americans.
• Address the high rate of crime in urban communities.
• Increase positive mental health accessibility without stigmatizing those who need and want it.
• Recognize that in urban communities, violence is related to a lack of economic opportunities and a hopelessness mentality among youth that needs to be addressed.
No one is saying that guns have to be eliminated, but like most other potentially dangerous things in America, restrictions need to be put in place for the sake of safety. Many of us agree that background checks and ID requirements are needed, and Americans are united in the belief that support for the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
My brother Andre and many others have been killed because of the lack of safeguards in place to protect their fundamental right to live. As an alumna of Young People For and a member of the Roosevelt Institution Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, both programs that empower young leaders to create lasting change in our communities, I know that inaction is not the answer. We can no longer sit on the side lines and allow gun lobbyists to place band aids on gunshot wounds. We need and must demand common-sense gun violence prevention measures.
The probability of another death increases every second we hesitate.
WASHINGTON – People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch released a report today chronicling the history and strategies of the radical groups and individuals who are working to prevent meaningful gun violence reform. While most Americans, including most gun owners, support common-sense gun violence prevention efforts, a small but vocal group of extremists has so far succeeded in blocking any attempt at meaningful reform.
The report, The Lobby Against Common Sense: The Right’s Campaign Against Gun Violence Reform and How We Can Defeat It, is available at www.pfaw.org.
“We cannot address the plague of gun violence in our country until we are able to have a reasonable debate about reforming our gun laws,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Unfortunately, for too many years this debate has been dominated by an extreme and vocal fringe. These extremists equate gun violence prevention with ‘tyranny’; blame mass shootings on everything and everybody but lax gun safety laws; and push conspiracy theories about government confiscations of firearms.
“Stunningly, these extremists say that the real ‘radicals’ are Americans who support reforms to rein in the horror and devastation of gun violence. While these groups claim to represent American gun owners, they are in fact far out of step with most Americans, gun owners included. We hope that this report will help elected officials and voters understand the truth behind the forces that are trying to drag down meaningful gun violence reform.”
People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch monitors and exposes the activities of right-wing movements in the United States.
An Open Letter to Speaker John Boehner
Dear Speaker Boehner:
In the wake of a year teeming with incidents of heartbreaking gun violence, it came as quite a shock to see Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX) announce yesterday that he is “excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber” for President Obama’s State of the Union address.
This so-called “patriot” has repeatedly threatened the life of the president.
With a gun in each hand, Ted Nugent once publicly called Obama a “piece of shit,” saying he “told him [Obama] to suck on my machine gun” and suggested that Hillary Clinton “might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.” In the same incident, he also threatened Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein with gun violence.
At an NRA event last year, Nugent infamously warned that he would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year” if President Obama were re-elected. After People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch publicized the video of his comments, the Secret Service began an investigation of Nugent.
The First Amendment protects Ted Nugent’s rights to say offensive things, but that right does not extend to making threats of violence against public officials. And it certainly does not give Nugent a “right” to be granted a privileged position of honor as a guest of the House of Representatives at the President’s State of the Union address.
So today we are calling on you, as Speaker of the House, to disinvite Nugent from attending the State of the Union address. This is not a question of civility; it is a question of whether or not to tolerate violent threats. We cannot invite those who openly threaten the life of the president to be part of this celebrated tradition. Allowing Nugent into the House chamber for the address will send a clear message of condoning such threats.
In a country still reeling from recent shooting sprees and striving to find ways to reduce gun violence, it is unconscionable to invite to the State of the Union address a man who has repeatedly threatened to kill our nation’s president.
President, People For the American Way